Saturday morning will afford most of North America the opportunity to see a beautiful, if brief, total lunar eclipse; that opportunity does not extend to those of us located in Northeastern Ohio. Our missed opportunity is a matter of location and timing: the partial phase of the eclipse will begin for us at 6:16 AM EDT and the eclipsing Moon will set at 7:10 AM. Sunrise is at 7:05 AM. At best, we will see a shadowy edge missing from the Full Moon as it sinks below the horizon and is obliterated by dawn’s light. We will miss the dramatic “totality” phase entirely.
Eclipse watchers farther west of us will witness the shortest lunar eclipse of the century with totality lasting only about five minutes.
This eclipse marks the third in a series of four lunar eclipses in a row, known as a “tetrad.” The first in the series occurred on April 15, 2014, the second in September of 2014, and the final will be Sept. 27, 2015.
During an eclipse, the moon often looks coppery or reddish because sunlight has passed through Earth’s atmosphere, which filters out most of its blue light. This eerie, harmless effect was understandably frightening to people before its cause was understood.
For a total lunar eclipse to happen, the moon must be Full, which means it is directly opposite the Sun, with Earth in between. The Moon moves into the shadow cast into space by the Sun shining on Earth. An eclipse does not occur every month because sometimes the Moon is above the shadow and sometimes below.
Take heart, Ohioans, for we will have a grand eclipse viewing opportunity later this year! The September 27 total lunar eclipse will take place before midnight and we will be able to witness the entire event, if the skies cooperate!
The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles will provide a live feed from their telescope starting at 6 AM EDT on April 4:
A world map of eclipse visibility can be found at:
Note: This story includes some material from a NASA news release.